Due to the more conversational and spontaneous aspects of The Republican Gun, the readers are often treated to a bit of, as I like to call it, “inside baseball”; a look behind the scenes at the writing process and our ordinary lives. So, yes, as you mentioned in your last piece, a bout of mundane moving from one home to another forced me to type my last entry directly into the email app on my iPhone. The shortness of my last piece was a direct result of this unconventional route to your inbox. Another result was that I had to make sharp cuts to what I wished to talk about. So, before I respond to the points of your previous piece, I want to pick up where I left off.
After pointing out that President Trump’s critics – of which I am one – are driven mad by his refusal to act “presidential,” I wanted to talk about the few moments where we get a glimpse of what a presidential Donald Trump looks like.
As someone who enjoys the English language and the craft of speechmaking, Trump’s usual style of off-the-cuff speaking wears down my patience quite quickly. Now, I’m not sure whether Trump actually has some competence in public speaking or if my expectations have just been so drastically lowered, but when he makes the effort to make a speech, instead of just riffing, my approval of him increases considerably. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and believe that he actually has skills in talking to masses of people. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to rush out to get my Make America Great Again merch, and start chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump,” but at least for that very brief moment in time when he’s making a real speech I’m not embarrassed that he’s the president.
Recently, Trump gave speeches in Saudi Arabia, Poland and France. I actually enjoyed all of those speeches, and agreed with some points he made in them. However, the fact that I just enjoyed them, isn’t very high praise when it comes to presidential speeches. I can still watch some of Barack Obama’s speeches, such as his 2004 convention speech and his 2008 victory speech, and tear up while listening to them. Obama had a way of invigorating my patriotic spirit and faith in the future of the United States, which is something Trump has yet to do.
A secondary problem with my enjoyment of Trump’s speeches is that I don’t think the points I agree with are really what Trump believes. While that might seem ludicrous because Trump has the final say over his speeches, he constantly contradicts the words of his prepared speeches when he starts riffing again. Things like open support for NATO, condemnation of Russian election interference, believing in American exceptionalism, the defense of international human rights, praise for our allies, and ire for our enemies, are all establishment ideals that Trump has supported in speeches, but scorned in conversation.
The point I’m trying to make is that there’s a version of Donald Trump that I can see myself supporting – maybe not supporting vigorously, but not despising either. Recently, I’ve found myself looking back to interviews Trump has given in the past. There’s a couple discoveries I’ve taken away from those interviews.
My first takeaway is that the idea that Trump was outside of the political realm when he ran is 2016 is just not true. In nearly every interview I watched, Trump is either asked political questions, expresses his political beliefs, or shows his desire to be an overt political figure. And one can’t forget that Trump was using his wealth to pull many strings behind the scenes of Washington. However, the whole outsider charade that Trump played up during the election was easily maintained due to the cover up that was his entertainment career. Trump’s cameos in movies and time as a reality TV star made his fans worship him, and his opponents underestimate him.
The second takeaway is where the whole idea of my possible support for Trump originates. While listening to Trump list and defend his political beliefs in interviews from the 1980s and 90s, I learned that there is – or at least once was – a more reasonable side to him. Not only is he not boisterous or speaking nonsensically, but he’s expressing political beliefs that would be more akin to a moderate than an alt-righter. So, then I’m forced to ask myself the following: What happened to Donald Trump over the years to make him go from a seemingly reasonable person to this caricature that we see before us? Is it old age? Is he playing a character? I just don’t know. We may not know until the Donald Trump tell-all memoir hits bookshelves in 10 years.
Now that I’ve caught myself up on what I wanted to discuss, I’ll move on to Trump’s main outlet for self-adulation and venting – his Twitter account. To say that Trump is the first president to tweet is not only misleading, but it’s also false. While Obama didn’t have a personal Twitter account until after leaving office, he had two official accounts while he was president: @WhiteHouse and @POTUS. While these accounts were usually run by media teams who put out official messages from Obama and his staff, Obama himself often sent out tweets from these accounts to raise awareness of specific issues or legislation. Obama continued to tweet throughout his entire tenure as the 44th President of the United States, but it wasn’t a daily issue as it is with Trump. So, why is it a problem now?
I think the best place to start when answering that question is with your son’s response to your probe about Trump’s tweets. While I do agree with your sentiment that there is a kind of savagery to Trump in how he postures and clings to the idea that he is always dominate, I think there’s more to your son’s response than the dictionary definition of savage lets on.
As a current college student, I’m well aware that savage is often used as a slang term to describe a person or comment that is particularly ruthless and has no qualms about either being brutally honest or insulting people in ways that deeply hurt them. I’m not sure how in touch your son is with the slang words of today, but his response fits either way he meant it. And I think that’s the main problem right there. First off, has savage ever been a positive term for describing someone who holds a dignified position like President of the United States? Secondly, Trump has earned that designation by using Twitter and the soapbox of the presidency to directly attack people he doesn’t like.
It was considered quite a taboo when it was discovered that Richard Nixon had a secret enemies list. Trump doesn’t even bother keeping it a secret – he tweets it out on a daily basis! People were appalled when they thought Nixon had a hidden hatred for the news media, but Trump’s hatred for the news media would be the first bullet point on his presidential baseball card. Yet, he receives praise from his staunches followers, which include government officials, for this kind of behavior.
Presidents have always made strides to further connect themselves with the American people. You mentioned a pretty famous example of this in FDR’s fireside chats. To be honest, I don’t think Trump’s tweets and Roosevelts chats are even comparable. Roosevelt read his thought-out statements to the country in order to raise awareness on topics such as the Emergency Banking Act, the New Deal, and the progress of the war. It was long form and meant to inform. Trump’s tweets are the world’s most popular political attack ads. Instead of informing about policy, he is usually more preoccupied with rattling off half-baked ideas into the electronic ether.
As to the question of if a president should tweet the people, I say it doesn’t really matter. If he wants to use Twitter as yet another avenue for the spread of information, fine. If he doesn’t want to use Twitter, fine. But to say that it’s acceptable for an American president to be the world’s most powerful cyber bully is absolutely ridiculous. And, of course, I’m well aware that if the shoe was on the other foot, and these actions were being committed by a Democratic president, the arguments would be completely reversed. But, as I hope you’ve noticed by now, I’m not a party follower, so my point of view pertains to any president – or any government official for that matter – that uses Twitter in such a manner.
My final topic of discussion before I sign off will be on Charlie Gard. You were right in your assumption that I didn’t know much about this story. While I’ve heard about it here and there, I thought it was just a sensationalized story about an ill child. I initially wrote it off as one story arbitrarily plucked out of a million clones. After all, there are endless amounts of sick children throughout the world, so I didn’t understand why this particular child was the focus of so much media attention.
However, I agree with you that the story of Baby Charlie has a lot of philosophical questions, both subtly and overtly, tucked within its pages. My kneejerk response to your description of events is that it should be up to Mr. and Mrs. Gard as to what happens to Charlie. If they wish to fight through all of the medical bills, hard days, and long nights, to save their child’s frail life, I say that should be their right. And, since the British government would rather see Charlie’s life terminated, I think taking him home to die in his familial environment is a fine middle-ground solution.
Although, after thinking on the issue a bit more, I remembered to take Britain’s public form of healthcare into consideration. I agree with your suspicion that the public financing of sustaining Charlie’s life is a hidden concern for the British government. Therein lies an inherent drawback to the government’s financing of public healthcare. Since it’s their money, it’s technically within their power to say how healthcare funds are used. After all, if the government has the right to give you medical attention, then they also have the right to take it away.
The excuse that it would be better to terminate Charlie’s life due to the pain he would receive during treatment is pretty deceiving in my eyes. Humans, including children and infants, are subject to painful medical care all the time in the name of either improving or sustaining their lives. An example of ignoring infant pain is the practice of circumcision. Studies show that circumcision is incredibly painful for an infant male, but the option is still offered in almost every hospital in the western world. And while there is benefits to the operation, it’s usually carried out because it’s more culturally acceptable to have it done then to not have it done.
So, as an advocate for freedom of choice, I would lean on the side of letting Charlie’s fate be left up to his parents. Since I believe in a woman’s right to choose whether she wishes to have an abortion, I think a mother’s right to save her child’s life is just as valid. However, if you’re looking at the problem in a realistic sense, it’s difficult to disregard the British government’s pseudo-ownership of Charlie at this point. This is truly a complicated situation, seeing as we’re dealing with a human life and the parents’ right to choose their child’s fate.